‘Exorbitant’ head of jurisdiction of Article 14 Code Civil (France) is not unconstitutional. Probably.

On 29 February last, the French Cour de Cassation decided not to grant leave for the constitutionality (or not) of Article 14 of the French Code Civil to be reviewed by the French Constitutional Court. Article 14 is an ‘exorbitant’ rule of jurisdiction. These are jurisdictional grounds in national law which rest on very weak of even spurious grounds, and which by virtue of Articles 3 and 4 of the Brussels I Regulation may not be invoked against those domiciled in one of the EU Member States. However they do regain full force as against those not domiciled in any of the EU Member States.

Article 14 Code Civil grants jurisdiction in civil cases to French courts, on the simple ground that plaintiff be a French national. A similarish provision in French criminal law was recently and famously invoked (but failed) in the prof Joseph Weiler litigation (French version here and unofficial English translation here).

The alleged unconstitutionality lies in the perceived ‘unfairness’ of such trials vis-a-vis the (non French, indeed by virtue of the Brussels I Regulation the non EU) defendants. The Cour de Cassation saw no merits in the arguments, arguably mostly on the ground of the diminishing practical impact of the provision. The Cour’s decision means that for the time being at least , the issue will not be sub judice in the French Constitutional¬† Court, however that does not mean of course that it might not end up at the European Court of Human Rights before long.

Geert.

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